For Hsieh, the goal is to create entrepreneurial density for the resulting “collisions’’— serendipitous meetings. “We want to open-source what has worked and what hasn’t. Just think, we are doing this in this place where you would least expect it.”
Throughout the day, other entrepreneurs talked about building thriving startup communities in their cities — Boulder, New York, and London among them. And local and national leaders discussed what might work in South Florida. “It’s about economic gardening,” said Neil Kleiman, director of Wagner Innovation Labs at New York University. “How do you capitalize on what you have here? How can tech be applied to the industries you are strong in?”
Speakers agreed that Miami has many of the ingredients needed for a dynamic “startup city”: a vibrant urban corridor from Brickell to Midtown, new accelerators and co-working spaces, the lifestyle benefits that come with living in the sun and fun, and as, a result of the housing crash, areas with affordable housing. The region’s role as the gateway to Latin America should be celebrated, the panelists said.
“We could be the capital of Latin America” for tech, said Manny Medina, founder of Terremark who spearheaded creation of the Technology Foundation of the Americas to create a major tech conference in Miami. “We have a fantastic opportunity. ... The conditions are ripe.”
He hopes that conference, planned for May 3-7 of 2014, will spark and anchor a vibrant Tech Week that attracts thousands.
Some of the discussion revolved around removing barriers in zoning and improving digital connectivity, the appropriate role of government, the need for local funding networks and the small steps groups and individuals can take to help grow the community organically.
“All of us need to get together and make this the place for entrepreneurs and investors to meet and make the magic happen,” said Adriana Cisneros, vice chairman and director of strategy for the Cisneros Group.
Sustainability is also key, as panelists noted Miami’s notorious booms and busts including in tech. Several panelists said the area needs more success stories.
“Florida has more micro-businesses than anywhere in the country. The issue is getting some of those to scale and grow. We need to think bigger,” said Susan Amat, founder of Launch Pad Tech, which is accelerating its first class of startups now.
Fernando Fabre, president of Endeavor, said that’s the mission of his global nonprofit, which selects high-potential entrepreneurs and helps them scale quickly and create jobs. Endeavor recently announced it will open its first U.S. office in Miami later this year.
Building an entrepreneurial ecosystem doesn’t happen overnight, Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and chairman of the Startup America partnership, reminded the audience. “It takes a concerted effort, it takes a networked effort, it takes collaboration.”
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg and follow startup news and views on The Starting Gate blog on MiamiHerald.com/business